Silencing the dysfunction.

Dear Amy: In response to “Tired Ears,” I had a similar situation with my niece. She would call and talk nonstop. Mostly she wanted to rant about her mother (my sister), and how her mother always hated her, etc. So not true!

Finally, I’d had it. I said to her, “Do not talk about my sister anymore.”

She was shocked, but it worked.

We have been in a loving relationship ever since.

— Worked for Me

Dear Worked: Boundaries: they work! (c) Ask Amy

I have a different take on Ask Amy’s column. I agree that the letter writer would be peeved to listen to her niece going on and on about how her mother doesn’t love her. I can see how that would get old real fast.

But I’d wager anything that the letter writer does talk to her sister about her niece. Otherwise, how would she know that her sister hasn’t always hated her daughter?

Further, the niece is obviously unhappy. Why didn’t the letter writer suggest that she discuss it with her mom, or with a therapist, etc.?

Also, I find the letter writer’s assertion that her niece is wrong (“So not true!” she wrote) to be a bit glib and unaware. Dysfunction can be frustrating as all get-out when no one else will acknowledge it. Great job, letter writer. Right, it’s all in your niece’s head.

I’ve never complained about my mom to any of my maternal aunts. It would be wasted breath. But the fact is that they have a clique, the Sisters’ Clique, that I’m not a part of. So even though I don’t complain about my mom, she routinely gossips about me: how mentally ill and unable to cope with life I am, how completely unhinged I am, how awful it is to be the mother of a mentally ill woman, how she must’ve been a bad mommy (in order to aquire sympathy), how miserable my life is, how I’ll never be normal and have kids and work, how I’m always depressed and anxious and out of touch with reality, and on and on. So, as you can imagine, I don’t want to break into the Sisters’ Clique. I find such tawdry gossip to be immoral and beneath me. They can be exclusive all they want.

But growing up, it was hard. They’d be seated around Granny Franny’s kitchen table, where they’d talk to each other and ignore me. One of them would speak, I’d make what I hoped was a witty reply, and it would be ignored. This happened frequently. I simply wasn’t there.

So the letter writer’s insistence that her niece should quit complaining about how her mother never loved her seems like a lame cop-out. There’s more to it, because why else would the niece be convinced her mother never loved her? Dysfunction, that’s why. I get that the letter writer no longer wanted to be the sounding board, but I don’t think it helped anything for her to shut her niece up like that. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil? Sometimes, the best thing for dysfunction is to own your own role in it, and this letter writer seems to be dodging that quite deftly. Of course, it’s possible that the letter writer hasn’t contributed to the dysfunction. But still, I’d be concerned if I had a niece who kept going on and on about how her mother never loved her. Yeah, I might get tired of hearing about it, but I’d also want to help. “Linda, you bring this up all the time, and I’m worried. Have you considered talking to your mom or a therapist about this? I’m not sure I can help.” It’s not hard.

Just trust me, the aunt’s glib self-assuredness (“So not true!”) doesn’t sound remotely credible to me. Let me put it this way. My family is Dysfunction Junction, but I would NEVER accuse my mom of not loving me. So my point is that that’s not the sort of accusation or complaint that’s made lightly. I’d accuse my mom of a million other things, but not of that. She loves me! So if you’ve got your niece saying she feels unloved, maybe ask yourself why! Don’t just shut her up, because who’s she going to talk to now? Geez.


6 thoughts on “Silencing the dysfunction.

    1. Thanks! Please stop by anytime!! 🙂 Sorry your first comments got moderated! I’m not sure how to prevent that, but now that your comment has been accepted by me, your future comments will post automatically!! 🙂


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